Author Archives: clairegebben

Cleveland and Cuyahoga County Genealogy resources

Recently, I bumped into the website Cleveland and its Neighborhoods, which has a wealth of “History, Genealogy, and Other Peripheral Subjects pertaining to Cleveland, Ohio” compiled by Laura Hine. It’s an incredibly comprehensive resource, one that didn’t readily pop up during my novel research, so I thought I’d give it a shout out here.

cleve neighbors

At the bottom of the “Cleveland and Its Neighborhoods” home page is another link to Hine’s sister site: “just about everything that you need to know about doing genealogy research in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.” Tips and go-to topics include: Births, Deaths, Suburbs that maintain their own Birth and Death Certificates, Obituaries, Funeral Homes, Marriages, Cemeteries, Catholic Church records, Useful Cuyahoga County Websites, Other Cuyahoga County Genealogy Collections, Property Deeds – Recorder’s Office, Cuyahoga County Audito, Courts in Cuyahoga County, Cuyahoga County Probate Court Estate Case Files – Index and Images, Cuyahoga County Naturalization Records, Census, City Directories, Maps and Atlases, Military, Newspapers, Schools, Taxes and Voter Information.

Salivating yet? Access this info by clicking here: Frequently Asked Questions For Genealogy Research in Cuyahoga County

Thanks, Laura–you’re officially my Cuyahoga County genealogy maven!

Abroad and at home

This May, I had the privilege of visiting the Archives Research Centre in Inverness, where I took a peak at Croy Parish Church registers. The Kirk, as it was known in those days. Unlike modern church sessions (at least, those of the mainline denominations with which I’m familiar), these Kirk sessions included provincial trials of misdeeds such as fist-fighting on the Sabbath.

Here’s an excerpt from one such record:

Croy July 13 1740 James Mitter Gardiner in [Cabrach] & Margaret Gordon in Mitten Delated for undecent correspondence are appointed to be cited to our next meeting of the Elders appointed to enquire into the grounds of such report. …
Croy July 20th 1740 Compeard James Mitter & Margaret Gordon & refusing their keeping any undecent correspondence the Elders were enquired if they searched into the grounds of such report & answered that they found there was such a flagrant story passing at that part of the Parish but that after diligent search they could find no ground for it. Closed with prayer.

Can you imagine such a meeting of sessions at a mainline church today? People might actually turn out for the show. Strange words appear in the text: Delated. Compeard. Then again, it’s fortunate I didn’t have to decipher them from Gaelic.

“Delate” does appear in the Merriam-Webster, an archaic word that means to denounce or accuse. Not so the word “compeard.” Perhaps it is dialect? I don’t believe it is a misreading of the handwriting–here’s a sample of transcribed text of another such record I found in Google books:
book scots regional dialect

Back home, I found another tidbit of Scots 18th century history in the oddest place — the Genealogical Abstracts from Newspapers of the German Reformed Church 1830-1839, collected by Barbara Manning.
book genealogical abstracts
In an abstract from the Weekly Messenger of the German Reformed Church dated Aug. 9, 1837, is the following:

//LONGEVITY. RICHARD TAYLOR, the oldest pensioner in Chelsea Hospital England, died on the 10th of June, aged 104. He was a drummer boy at the battle of Culloden in 1745; his last action was that of Alexandria in Egypt where SIR RALPH ABERCROMBIE fell. //

Other than the fact that the Battle of Culloden occurred in 1746, let’s give this the benefit of the doubt and assume the rest is correct. The announcement tells me several things. First, that Richard Taylor was most likely a drummer boy for the British side of that engagement. Second, that if Taylor did live 104 years, he was a drummer boy in the King’s service at the young age of 13 years. Third, back in the day the Battle of Culloden was so well known that the editors of  this small German denominational newspaper in the U.S. felt this news from England worthy of note. Yet today, many people I talk with have never heard of Culloden.

Stumps in the road

When it comes to historical research, it’s all too easy to follow one thread, then another, until progress slows to the pace of a journey by horse and wagon in the 18th century.

Ohio near St Clairsville 2015

Ohio near St. Clairsville, 2015

Currently, in my studies of Scots immigrants to Ohio, I’m on the trail of pre-canal, pre-railroad travel. Via interlibrary loan, I’ve checked out a copy of Margaret Van Horn Dwight’s diary, published under the title “A Journey to Ohio in 1810.” A delightful account of an arduous trip delayed again and again, due to weather, flooding rivers, and a horse too exhausted to go on. Margaret and her companions were traveling from New Haven, Connecticut to Warren, Ohio. Below is a sample entry:

“Thursday night — Allegany (sic) Mtn Nov– 16 [1810]
We have had a warm & pleasant day till towards night, when it began to rain, as it has done every day for a fortnight — we are now at a tavern half a mile from the top of the Allegany Mt- this Mountain is 14 miles over- At the highest part of it is a most beautiful prospect of mountains- 5 or 6 ridges one after the other- … I pick’d a sprig of ivy from the top, which … came from the very backbone of America, as they all tell us — We have walk’d a great deal to day, & indeed we are oblig’d to every day, for the whole country seems one continued mtn…”

Because of the steep terrain, to spare the horse, Margaret and her companions climbed the mountains on foot, walking next to the wagon.

Another route over the Allegheny Mountains started out of Baltimore, Maryland. By the end of the 1700s, this road reached well into the Northwest Territory (present-day Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and Indiana). The first leg of the route from Baltimore went to Uniontown, Pennyslvania, a road cut in the 1750s by General Braddock’s troops during the French and Indian War. The second leg, Gist’s trace, was cut by white trader Thomas Cresap and his friend the Delaware Chief Nemacolin, and stretched from explorer Gist’s plantation in Uniontown as far as the Monongahela River at present-day Brownsville, Pennsylvania.

The third leg was cut by Ebenezer Zane around 1796. Called Zane’s Trace, it was a narrow, clumsily cut path through giant trees of the Ohio wilderness. Eventually, Zane’s trace extended from present-day Wheeling, West Virginia to Maysville, Kentucky. As the trees were felled by Zane’s men, the story goes, little care was taken about the tree stumps. As a result, wagons sometimes high-centered on stumps, or got stuck between them. It’s said that Zane’s Trace is where people first used the expression “to get stumped,” as in, stuck and going nowhere.

Huh. I know the feeling. Time for me to get off my research duff and start writing.

Trips end

Chambers Bay Golf Course

Chambers Bay Golf Course

We’re back home in Seattle, where the U.S. Open golf tournament is about to begin.

What a trip, beginning with chill and blustery Scotland, continuing in warmer, drizzling Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and concluding in Freinsheim Germany with a heat wave.

altstadtfest in Freinsheim

Reformed Evangelical Protestant Church tower in the center of Freinsheim

And with plenty of toasts at the Freinsheimer Altstadtfest. To close, below are just a few photos and memories.



The Altstadtfest runs for three days. We only lasted one (because our flight left early on day 2, naturally).

croft on the battlefield at Culloden

Croft on the Culloden battlefield

bicycles at the central train station in Amsterdam

Bicycles in Amsterdam, at the Centraal train station

bird magpie

European magpie

couple at restaurant

Piet de Leeuw on Noorderstraat in Amsterdam, a restaurant that serves horse. (No, we didn’t try any.)


Spargelmania, and the Wohnmobile

Spargel fieldThis morning Matthias and I bicycled, at my request, to an asparagus field. Perhaps a strange tourist stop, but I couldn’t picture how asparagus is grown underground here (on purpose, to keep it white instead of green). When we arrived, we stood for awhile watching the morning harvesters. Asparagus (Spargel) is picked twice a day, in the morning and the evening. If you want to go deeper, read all about “Spargelmania” here.

As we stood gazing at the field, Matthias turned to me with a quizzical expression. “What do you call those pieces of timber that hold up the roof of your house?” he asked, gesturing over his head.

“You mean, like beams?”

“Right, we call the rows here “Spargel Balken,” asparagus beams because they look like the beams in a ceiling,” he said, gesturing out at the long square rows.

imageThe harvesters dig into the soil rows, jab out the asparagus spears, then build back up the soil so the plant will continue to sprout spears. Once the season has ended, in late June, the soil “beams” are flattened out, the asparagus allowed to go to seed.

On the way back to the house, Matthias and I passed through a parking lot full of German RVs, known as “Wohnmobiles”.  Owning a Wohnmobile appears to be a trend in Germany. The RVs come in all shapes and sizes, just like in the U.S., but their purpose is a bit different. Throughout the year, so many festivals are held in small villages throughout Germany. It’s difficult to get there and back in a day, especially if you want to enjoy the local vintages late into the evening. The solution? A Wohnmobile, of course.


Food and drink adventures

It wouldn’t be a travel blog without a post about food and drink. On Dave and my recent tour through Scotland, the Netherlands, and Germany, we’ve tasted such a delicious variety. The most unusual dish I had in Scotland: wood pigeon with black pudding, served on what appeared to me to be a (carefully scrubbed) slate roof tile.
Wood pigeon with black puddingI ordered it at a restaurant in Inverness called the Mustard Seed. The wood pigeon is the largest bird of the dove family, also known in England as the Culver.

The previous day, I had asked a waiter about Scottish black pudding, and he’d paused.

“When I describe it, you’ll think it’s gross,” he said.

“Try me.”

“Well, you take the insides of an animal, the stomach I think, they clean it and fill it with blood and–”

“Okay, stop. You’re right, I don’t want that,” I’d said.

But a day later, by the time we were dining at the Mustard Seed, I’d seen black pudding on enough restaurant menus I thought–oh, what the hell. The waiter assured me I would not get a large quantity, just a few small slices served with the wood pigeon on arugula. The taste reminded me of blood sausage (which it basically is). Rich, but very good. A similar concoction is added to Scottish haggis, which makes some turn up their noses to that breakfast selection.

Anyhow, back in Edinburgh, at a bar/restaurant called Whiski on High Street (really), I tried a whisky “flight,” a scotch whisky sampling adventure that didn’t require as much courage as the black pudding, but perhaps more fortitude. The waiter served me four bar staff favorites: Balblair 2003, Dalmore 15 Year Old, Jura Prophecy, and Ardbeg 10 Year Old, to be sampled in that order. I find I’m a fan of the less smoky, first two scotches. Just sayin’.

whiskey flight at Whiski in Edinburgh
Skipping ahead to Freinsheim, it’s time to enjoy kuchen–a traditional Palatinate dessert. At Tante Inge’s yesterday, Dave and I enjoyed slices of this delicious Apfelkuchen (Apple Kuchen).
Tante Inge's Apfelkuchen

In the evening, at an outdoor barbecue (the weather has been so warm and pleasant in the Palatinate) our hosts served up white asparagus, with hollandaise and cheese sauces.
imageNaturally, the dish was devoured.image

The meal concluded with a digestif — Pear Schnaps, a German form of fruit-based alcohol also called Obstler. This schnaps is not to be confused with the candy-cane tasting Peppermint Schnapps liqueur. Two different drinks entirely. Distilled just a few doors down from our courtyard barbecue on Wallstrasse, the Pear Schnaps was a satisfying finish. And we slept well, too.
German Schnaps


Return to Freinsheim

Matthias at the barbecue“I’m glad to see you back so soon,” Matthias said to me on our first evening in Freinsheim.

These were welcome words, as I worried Dave and I might be outwearing our welcome, having just visited here last October for the Weinwanderung. We were welcomed with a veritable barbecue feast — lamb, chicken and sausage, grilled over a fire stoked from the stalks of old grapevines.

“Does the grapevine smoke add flavor?” Dave asked.

Matthias smiled. “Okay, if you like, it makes the food more delicious. Then again, perhaps we use this wood because it burns more slowly and evenly.”

Everything tasted delicious.

imageSpring in Freinsheim is the time of ripening cherries and figs, and, this late in the season, the last days of the delicious white asparagus harvest, which attracts Germans from the cities, who are willing to wait in long lines in their cars to purchase asparagrus fresh from the field.

imageWe are here just in time for the annual Altstadtfest (I’ve tried to link to an English translation of the web site. Altstadtfest takes place June 4-7), and it looks like the weather will be perfect. The Altstadtfest will be held in the town center, just in the shadow of the church spires you see in this photo. In the foreground is the Catholic Church spire, and in the background is the Reformed Evangelical Church spire. Each has a bell, and I am told, unlike many other small villages in the Pfalz, these bells are tuned to ring in harmony.

In the footsteps of every visitor to Amsterdam and beyond

Our first day in Amsterdam, we made a beeline to the Van Gogh Museum, where we came within about 200 yards of the place, at the back of a long line of ticket purchasers.

Van Gogh Museum“Must be because it’s a Sunday,” I muttered after about five minutes of no forward movement. “Maybe we should try again tomorrow.”

The next morning found us no closer. This time, at least we’d purchased tickets for the voucher line.

“This must be the one thing in Amsterdam every tourist does,” Dave said.

The woman in front of us turned around and nodded. One hears many different languages in this city, but just about everyone, it seems, speaks English. In the end, we only waited half an hour. The line to the Anne Frank House is the other must-see, and a wait of 2-3 hours no matter when you go. With only two days here, we had to skip it.

Amsterdam City ArchivesInstead, we opted for a 75-minute canal open-boat tour. The driver took us by the Amsterdam City Archives. (If we had another day, I’d definitely be dragging Dave here.) But you don’t have to physically stop by to appreciate archives treasures–through their website, the digital collection is extensive and impressive.

Self-Portrait at Rijksmuseum, Vincent Van GoghBack to the Van Gogh Museum, and the current exhibit (“When I Give, I Give Myself: Artists and writers respond to letters from Van Gogh”), with displays about the multitude of artists Van Gogh has inspired these last few centuries based on his brief 10-year career as an artist (1880-1890). In one letter, which Vincent wrote to his brother Theo in 1883, I  especially resonated with these words, about the “intense struggle between ‘I’m a painter’ and ‘I’m not a painter.'”:

Sometimes a frightening struggle … If something in you says ‘you aren’t a painter’ — IT’S THEN THAT YOU SHOULD PAINT, old chap … one must take it up with assurance, with a conviction that one is doing something reasonable, like the peasant guiding his plough …

Imagine. What if Van Gogh had listened to his inner critic?

Orange, ho!

imageAnother landmark on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh is St. Giles Cathedral, considered the “mother church” of Presbyterianism. The crown spire is in the shape of the royal crown. It seems this cathedral is the only building of three churches in downtown Edinburgh that still is used as a church, which struck me as significant, given the histories I’ve been reading about the intensely zealous 17th and 18th century Scots Presbyterians. Note Dave’s orange jacket, a beacon to help me find him in a crowd, and a hint to where his heart truly lies, in his Holland homeland.

imageWhere we have now arrived, in that fair city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Fair indeed, but it’s been raining ever since we arrived, as evidenced by this cloudy scene at the Maritime Museum (Scheepvaartmuseum).

In the evening at a local pub/restauraunt, Dave spoke French to the waiter, prompting him to raise one eyebrow and ask where we’re from.

“The United States,” I said, laughing. “But Dave here is of Dutch descent. Not that he can speak it.”

The waiter shrugged. “That’s the way it is today. My wife is of Polish and Italian descent, but she can’t speak a word of either language.” He turned to Dave. “So you are of Dutch descent?”

“Yes, my great-grandfather came to America, he was a religious man.”

“Ah, then he must not have been from Amsterdam, probably from a village in the countryside. It is still like that today.”

Greetings from Holland.

A word about the close and the Highland cow

I remember first wondering about “the close” when listening to an audio CD of Anthony Trollope‘s The Warden, which kept mentioning the term. I couldn’t picture a close. In context, it seemed to mean something near a house, like an entry. Or maybe a small backyard? I looked it up, but “narrow alleys” didn’t conjure a proper image. City blocks in the U.S. are taken up by buildings, with foreboding alleys full of rubbish bins between them, mainly for cars and delivery trucks.

imageAt last, wandering the Royal Mile on Edinburgh, I enjoyed my first glimpse of a close. Lots of closes, actually. They’re pedestrian alleys that squeeze through between storefronts leading to inner courtyards. Here is the entrance to Paisley Close (right by a Whisky store, naturally).

Riddell's CloseAnd here is the inner courtyard of Riddell’s Close, where David Hume once lived. Daniel Defoe wrote in 1726, “… that in no City in the World do so many People live in so little Room as in Edinburgh.” The closes, and streets too, were crowded and disgusting, since people had a habit of dumping their chamber pots out the windows, shouting “Gardy Loo!” (from the French, Gardez l’eau!–watch out for the water). In 1754, Edward Burt wrote “I was forced to hide my Head between the Sheets, for the Smell of Filth thrown out by the Neighbours came pouring into the room to such a Degree, I was almost poisoned by the Stench.”

imageWell. To freshen the air, just for fun, I’ll close with a photo of some Highland cows–they sure are cute.